Lithuania passes legislation against illegal immigrants, 2023

March 7, 2024

The Baltic state Lithuania’s parliament , Seimas, passed legislation on April 25,2023 making it legal to deny entry to asylum seekers, the EU member's latest move to fight illegal immigration. Lithuania had already been engaging in so-called pushbacks since 2021, when thousands of migrants and refugees − mainly from the Middle East and Africa − began trying to enter the European Union via Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

Since, the breakup of USSR in 1991, Lithuania has seen the highest irregular migration problem as it is strategically located between Russia and Belarus. Over the period of time, the number of illegal immigrants increased tenfold from countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh during those years and now from Russia, Ukraine, Poland etc. thus being as a waiting room, migrate to the Western Europe and Scandinavian countries.

The risk factors in this illegal immigration includes the countries national security and human rights where there are no solutions nor alternatives. The human rights center of the country is aware that this move is against the international law and commitments.

The EU argued that the influx was a "hybrid attack" orchestrated by the Belarusian regime in retaliation for international sanctions against Minsk, capital of Belarus for the involvement in the Russia -Ukraine war. The number of attempted crossings has since fallen, but Lithuanian border guards still deny entry to up to several dozen migrants a day.

Last year, Lithuania finished building a four-meter razor wire fence along the border with Belarus to tackle illegal immigration. It spans around 550 kilometers, while the entire border is nearly 700 kilometers long. Neighboring Poland has also regularly resorted to pushbacks at its border with Belarus in recent years. The controversial action is allowed under Polish law − through an Interior Ministry decree and the foreigners act − though in two separate cases, courts found it had violated refugee rights.

Passed on second reading by a large majority of parliamentarians on Thursday, April 20, the amendment to the state border law provides that in "emergency situations," such as a massive influx of foreign nationals at the country's borders, the government will be able to limit access to the territory. Border guards will then be authorized to expel migrants who have entered illegally and are within a 5-kilometer zone from the border. An exception was added for people fleeing armed conflict or persecution, or needing humanitarian aid.

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